College Park, MD – Maryland opened Big Ten play at home with a very impressive 84-59 win over Illinois. This was a game that was supposed to be a lot more competitive as Maryland had two of their big men out, Damonte Dodd and Michal Cekovsky. Maryland decided to play small ball sometimes having 6-8 L.G. Gill playing center. This style of play allowed Maryland to spread the floor creating a variety of mismatches on the offensive end. Illinois lacks the team speed and athleticism to be able to recover after the guards of Maryland penetrated the lane.
For Illinois it was much of the same story of the past several seasons. Riding the back of senior 6-6 shooting guard Malcolm Hill, the Illini tried to stay within respectability, but that in and of itself was very difficult on the night. Illinois was down 39-23 at the half and Hill had twelve of those points. Hill lacks true point guard skills and plays mostly off the ball. He has a solid stroke from deep and has an ability to post up smaller defenders. He is the main source of offense, and his team requires much of him to stay competitive. Hill just had zero help this game from his teammates. On the night Hill finished with 21 points and seven rebounds.
This may have been Maryland’s best performance of the season thus far. Mark Turgeon’s decision to play small may have opened a new realm of possibility for his team. Maryland’s strength is in its guard play, so we may be seeing a lot more of these smaller lineups in the future. Leading the way for Maryland was star 6-3 point guard Melo Trimble. Trimble is continuing to show that he has his explosiveness back that was not there a season ago. He got into the lane whenever he wanted and finished at the rim on several occasions over taller defenders. Trimble also showed an ability to pull up from mid range on drives and stay balanced to knock down shots. Trimble is starting to show why he was considered a first round talent after his freshman season. There were several scouts in attendance and his stock has to be on the rise. He did turn the ball over six times, which is a bit uncharacteristic of him, but that could be more of an anomaly. Melo finished with 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting with three rebounds and two assists.
The most impressive player on the floor had to be freshman 6-0 point guard Anthony Cowan. Cowan continued his stellar play and showed more poise than he has in any other game this season. He blew by defenders on the perimeter opening up the lane for dump off passes to cutters or open big men on several occasions. Cowan has a quick first step and finished extremely well against bigger defenders at the rim during this game. He also hounding opposing ball handlers and used his quickness to bother players especially on double teams. Cowan had three steals on the night and it could have been more if he was not called on a couple of reaching fouls. Cowan finished with twelve points, six assists, three rebounds, three steals and only one turnover in 34 minutes.
Two other players that had huge contributions for the Terps were 6-7 Justin Jackson and 5-11 Jaylen Brantley. Jackson’s versatility was on full display. He showed an ability to hit perimeter jumpers, as well as his ability to put the ball on the floor and drive the lane. Jackson can finish with either hand on the drive, which is impressive at his size. He also provided solid interior defense using his length to get two blocks. Jackson finished with twelve points, four rebounds and two blocks. Brantley continued his stellar play coming off the bench. He provides another solid scoring option, as well as good leadership to keep the team on the right track. Brantley has a high motor when on the court. He is a constant effort player and it rubs off on his teammates. He had several tough rebounds in traffic and even scored on a put back while amongst the trees down low. Brantley has become a luxury for the Terps and it provides immediate impact when he is inserted into the game. Brantley finished with 13 points, five rebounds and three assists.
As Big Ten play has begin the NBA scouts were in full attendance for this game. For Maryland, Trimble will have to continue to show his improvement and for others like Jackson the chance to make a lasting impression will be plenty. For Illinois, Hill will have to show more effort on the defensive end, while also showing more of an ability to create for his teammates.
Up next for Illinois is a home game against Ohio State on Sunday while Maryland is also home on Sunday against Nebraska.
This article was written by Greg Walter, a correspondent and scout for NetScouts Basketball. You can subscribe to our RSS feed from the upper right corner of our home page, follow us on Facebook, or on twitter.
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